Consuming (through) the Other? Rethinking Fat and Eating in BBW Videos Online

Consuming (through) the Other? Rethinking Fat and Eating in BBW Videos Online

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A young woman in bikini bottoms and a vest top scrunched up to just below her breasts stands facing the camera. Behind her lies the neatened clutter of domestic space with family photographs arranged next to a fish tank. As this gently buzzes in its fluorescent pool of light, she begins to speak:

Although a discussion of gender and sexuality is precluded by limited space, focusing on eating offers a way to unpick this analytic conflation whilst also recognising how wider entanglements among sex, power and fat may texture the videos

I’ve just finished eating my McDonald’s meal, which was one of the new quarter pounders with the bacon and the cheese and ten nuggets and a large fries but I have not finished my drink.

Pausing to hold up her drink to the camera, she shakes the takeaway cup to assess how much remains inside. With her other hand she gently pats her uncovered stomach, saying:

I’m feeling very full and very tight on the top… very very tight like, here and here too… like a drum …Very full! But I know that I can probably fit more with liquids so I’m going to top it off with the rest of this drink and them I’m going to fill in all the spaces with the rest of the drink.

I think next time I gotta get the double quarter pounder. I probably could take it, I could probably take on that double quarter pounder with the nuggets. So I’ll have to try that next time for you guys.

This video on You Tube is one of many on the Internet labelled BBW, which stands for Big Beautiful Woman. This term dates back to the 1979 launch of BBW Magazine, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for women. As it was then, BBW is also used within spaces of size acceptance, such as among the women participating in Alexandra Lescaze’s documentary All of Me, which charts the lives of friends who met through the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. In such spaces, as on Internet blogs and discussion pages, BBW is employed to assert the desirability, rather than abjection, of a fat female body; it thereby counters the “stigma that still is associated with being a large person in a small society” as one of the women in All of Me, Dawn, puts it. BBW is also a term that features frequently in ‘fat forums’. These are adult content cyberspaces for, as one homepage states, “plus size models and their admirers.” Alongside these, there is also a genre of BBW pornography in which sexually explicit activity takes place. This is found on dedicated websites as well as in sub-sections of more ‘mainstream’ porn sites. In these latter the videos that feature BBWs are often labelled “fat fetish.”

Authors Anna Lavis University of Birmingham Keywords:

Against this background, this article draws on content analysis conducted between 2013 and 2015 of forty videos posted on You Tube by women who self-identify as fat (see Longhurst) and, specifically, as BBWs. In particular, it focuses on videos to which eating is central. In these, eating is either performed on camera or has taken place just before filming began. In the latter instance eating and its bodily resonances are visible in two ways: the BBW might describe the meal just eaten or her feeling of fullness, or there may be a textual description such as “after a big mac.”

These videos have so far received little scholarly attention other than through a lens of sex, as enactments of “fat pornography” (cf. Kulick). Yet, analysing them as porn risks privileging an imagised rather than lived body and implicitly engaging only with a spectator’s viewpoint. It thereby potentially repeats the power dynamics it seeks to interrogate. This article instead suggests that there are key distinctions between these videos and porn. As such, whilst being careful not to reduce the BBWs in these videos to no more than eating bodies, this focus seeks primarily to pay attention to their agency and embodiment.

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